Sykes struck two minutes from time, bundling the ball home at the far post, after Boro had come from 3-1 down to level up an unusually competitive and entertaining pre-season friendly.

Paddy McNair, Jonny Howson, and Adama Traore were all on target in a game which provided a more than useful test ahead of the new season.

Newly promoted Accrington looked to attack with pace and movement and Boro had some early defending to do – Darren Randolph being called upon a couple times during the opening exchanges as the home side served notice of their intentions.

Boro lined up with Howson and McNair playing in front of Adam Clayton, and it was the summer signing who opened the scoring with an excellent goal. McNair showed good pace and strength to hold off the opposition defenders after a great ball from Stewy Downing before delivering a neat finish to put Boro ahead.

Accrington had beaten Huddersfield last weekend and they certainly looked like a side with the bit between their teeth. 

The pace of Kayden Jackson was a real threat and the hosts were awarded a penalty when Ryan Shotton brought an end to another of his driving runs. Billy Kee, Stanley’s leading scorer last season, was unable to apply the finish touch, though, and sent the spot-kick wide of the mark.

Boro were forced into a change midway through the half when Rudy Gestede, who had received treatment earlier in the game, was unable to continue and was replaced by Britt Assombalonga.

Stanley were level on 33 minutes, though, when Mark Hughes got up well at the far post to head home a corner.

Two minutes later, Accrington were ahead after Kee made no mistake with his second penalty of the afternoon. Jordan Clark was sent to ground by George Friend and referee Richards Brooks had no hesitation in awarding the hosts a second spot-kick of the game.

It was 3-1 before half-time when the ball fell kindly for Jackson on the edge of the box, and he delivered a strike into the far corner out of reach of Randolph.

The arrears were reduced early in the second half, though, when Howson seized upon a half-cleared ball and scored with superb strike from 30 yards out which left Jonny Maxted with no chance.

That provided the cue for a couple of outstanding driving runs from Adama while McNair was only denied when a Stewy Downing ball into the box was deflected away from the waiting midfield man with the goal at his mercy.

But Adama was becoming a real handful and he made it 3-3 shortly after the hour when he tormented the home defence once again before drilling the ball home.

McNair was a constant threat all afternoon with his forward runs and he went close to snatching another after Adam Clayton picked him out, but his volley was over the bar. 

Traore also went close when another driving run was followed by a clean strike, but it was Accrington who emerged victorious with the late Sykes’ goal.

Accrington: Maxted, Johnson, Hughes, Donacien, Richards-Everton, Conneelly, Clark, Brown, Kee, Jackson, McConville. Subs: Savin, Nolan, Sousa, Wood, Mingoia, Finley, Sykes, Williams, Trialist.

Boro: Randolph, Shotton, Flint, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Traore, McNair, Howson (Bamford 72), Downing (Leadbitter 72), Gestede (Assombalonga 23). Subs (unused): Konstantopoulos, Fry, De Sart, Wing, Fletcher, Johnson, Chapman, Wood.